As a lifelong resident of southeast Louisiana, hurricane season is a fact of life for SurvTech’s Ray Brouillette. In this story, Ray shares a little of his experience from the effects of Hurricane Ida, the most recent hurricane to impact him and his family. He also intends to provide a little insight into the decisions one makes when a storm approaches.
As hurricane season approaches, most residents that may be impacted by a storm make general preparations to handle the possibility of a hurricane impacting their area. One key decision is the choice to evacuate or stay home through the storm. While the obvious answer may seem to be to evacuate for many people, that is not always the easy choice. Here are some things to consider.
After living through many hurricanes, you learn that each storm has its own characteristics that present challenges to our normal daily life depending on where you live. Some of these characteristics include the strength, size, speed, and path of the storm.
Is it projected to be a category 2 or a category 5 storm when it makes landfall?
Could the electricity go out, or will gasoline and groceries be in short supply for hundreds of miles around?
Will it move through the area quickly so we only feel the effects of the storm for a couple of hours, or will it move through slowly and batter the area for 24 hours?
Am I on the west side of the storm which typically gets spared, or on the east side which usually gets the worst conditions and may face bands of rain that could start well before and finish long after the eye goes through?
Other factors that impact how you prepare for a hurricane include where you live in relation to other natural risky factors and your own personal circumstances. Perhaps there are many tall trees around your home or a river nearby that floods during heavy rains and threatens your neighborhood. Do you know if your neighborhood is on the same electric grid as a hospital or government facility that is a priority to get power restored as soon as possible? Maybe you have family members that do not have the means to evacuate and will need help if the power is knocked out. Are you a first responder or frontline worker that will be needed in the after-effects of a storm? Worst case scenario you have a freezer full of deer meat that must be kept running on a portable generator.
After considering the forecasted conditions and your individual circumstances, each family must make their own decision to evacuate or stay and weather the storm. Obviously, we all hope that everyone makes good decisions to keep themselves and their families safe. The decision to evacuate or stay, while easy for some, is a difficult one for others. For me, living on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in a neighborhood with few trees, I make the choice to stay and be prepared with gasoline and a portable generator. We helped out our family members and their pets who chose to evacuate from the south shore by having them stay with us, and helped parents and neighbors as best we could. We went without power for five days and had some minor water seepage in the house due to wind-driven rain that lasted for about six hours. All things considered, we fared very well.
As Hurricane Ida approached Southeast Louisiana, comparisons were made to Hurricane Katrina. Locals who lived through Katrina immediately recognized that Ida would make landfall on the exact same date as Katrina, August 29th. Eerie! One running joke was, “Who knew Katrina would invite Ida to her sweet 16 birthday party?” Personally, I had thoughts of my own experiences through Katrina…not knowing where our grandparents were for days, no cell phone coverage to communicate and find out how friends and family were doing, flooded homes waiting to be gutted…and the general attitude of most living through it: to help others as best they could.
While many lives are devastated by Hurricane Ida, particularly those near the coast and outside of the levee system, there were major differences from Hurricane Katrina. Ida had more powerful winds but was a smaller storm than Katrina. The smaller size helped decrease the storm surge during Ida. During Katrina, it is estimated that 80% of New Orleans was submerged by floodwaters after extreme storm surge caused the breaching of several levees around the city. $14B has been invested in a new and improved levee system to protect the metropolitan area which withstood the lesser storm surge created by Ida. The entire city and surrounding area lost power during Ida as all eight power lines supplying the area suffered catastrophic damage, including a major transmission tower on the banks of the Mississippi River that partially fell into the river. Katrina damages are valued at $81B. Ida’s total will not be known for some time but will not approach that number. The death toll in Louisiana attributed to Ida is less than 100 people. Katrina took the lives of almost 1600 people in Louisiana. Any loss of human life is a great tragedy.
Each hurricane season we hope for the best, we make preparations, and we watch the potential storms develop that may come our way. Hopefully, few storms will make landfall this year. But if we are impacted again, we’ll have a plan, look to help others, seek help when needed, and try our best to keep everyone safe.
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